town amanda
Image: Beth Howell

Amanda Palmer gets squeaky-clean and washes her frillies at the same time.

HAILING FROM BOSTON Amanda Palmer is the highly dramatic lead singer for performance-art cabaret duo the Dresden Dolls. She recently released her first solo album, the harrowing Who Killed Amanda Palmer, produced by Ben Folds. The spine-tingling album is a brilliant multicharacter study of modern dysfunction that Paste magazine called “a heartbreaking exploration of life’s struggles and losses.” In Paris for a video shoot, the chatty Palmer took our phone call to discuss the particulars of her upcoming tour.

You have a troupe of actors onstage called the Danger Ensemble. What is it that they do?
The Danger Ensemble is like my backup theater. That’s what I’ve been calling them. They do different things during different songs, and no explanation on my part seems quite right.

So you travel with 12 people? Do you have to give them all jobs for that arrangement to be cost-effective?
It’s not cost-effective. I’m broke and losing money by the fistful.

That sucks!
I made that choice on purpose. I would rather eat it financially than miss the opportunity to work with these people who came my way. During the encore the ensemble goes into the audience and collects money. People have been so generous we can’t believe it.

It’s certainly a novel approach to keep your crew from starving.
As a musician I want to get people used to it, because it’s closer to the way things are going as recorded music stops making money. You’re going to have to get used to the artist coming directly to you, saying, “Listen, if you like my music, please give me some money. I need it to pay rent and eat.”